Warm summer months often mean throwing open windows to invite in fresh air, sunshine, and, unfortunately, some decidedly unwelcome insects. These uninvited guests can be extremely difficult to get rid of, so it’s important to educate yourself on the most common household insects. In doing so, you can best determine what measures you should take to eliminate them from your home.

“All the Little Ants Are Marching”

No matter where you live, household ants are one of the most invasive pest problems. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most common. If you see one or two ants cavorting around the kitchen, the laundry area, or the bathroom, a whole host of their friends will soon be joining the party. As they forage for food, ants leave an invisible trail of pheromones that allows others to follow them.

Most varieties of household ants actually prefer to build their nests outdoors. They come inside in search of food to bring back to the colony; however, a colony may relocate indoors due to extreme outdoor conditions such as high water or drought. Once a colony is established indoors, a professional pest control service is often needed to completely evict the ants.

The most commonly seen ants in the home don’t generally bite, but they still do pose a threat. Ant waste left behind by swarms can contaminate food and make people in the home sick.

Four types of ants are common home invaders:

“They’ve Got Legs”

Most multi-legged home pests are not dangerous; the most common don’t typically bite the human occupants of the space they are crashing. But the sight of numerous legs rapidly wriggling across a floor or wall is often enough to provoke a scream from even the most hardy homeowner.

Silverfish & firebrats – These flat, scaly insects are often found among old boxes, dusty bookshelves, and in dank basements. They are most active at night and work hard to avoid direct sunlight. When you move an object they’ve been using for cover, they will frantically seek a new place to hide. Silverfish and firebrats are similar in shape – up to a half-inch long, elongated bodies with long, slender feelers at the head end and three whip-like projections at the tail. However, their tastes in habitat are exactly opposite:

Sowbugs & millipedes – While not technically insects and not harmful to food or household items, these household invaders can still be unwelcome visitors. They tend to pop up during the spring and summer months, initially appearing out of crevices in the house where they may have overwintered or when excessive rains have driven them inside. The bugs prefer moist habitats such as laundry areas or basements. However, since they feed on decaying plants and vegetation, they don’t normally reproduce or live for more than a few days inside the home.

House centipedes – With its 15 pairs of feathery-looking legs and habit of darting suddenly across walls and floors, the house centipede has sent countless homeowners running for the broom. But not only are these little creatures harmless to people, they can also be beneficial to the household. The main diet of the house centipede is populated with the insects that plague us most:

  • Flies
  • Moths
  • Bedbugs
  • Cockrach nymphs
  • Crickets
  • Silverfish
  • Small spiders

While the house centipede does secrete venom, they do not commonly bite people or pets, and a bite will only cause a small, localized sting.

"Fly, Away”

Whether they sting or merely slobber, winged pests in your home can be especially frustrating. Their ability to take to the air to elude flailing arms, rolled newspapers, and the most determined house cats makes them public enemy number one on the insect roster.

Common house flies – The greatest populations of house flies are seen in summer months – under ideal conditions the fly will develop from egg to adult in a minimum of seven days. Though it is commonly seen buzzing around the kitchen, house flies generally develop outdoors and find their way into the home through an open window or loose screen. House flies do not bite – their mouths are funnel-like protrusions from their heads, and they ingest their food by covering it with their saliva to dissolve it and then slurp up the resulting slurry. This, combined with their habit of landing and exploring every surface from your breakfast donut to the garbage pail, makes them a prime suspect in the transmission of illness, including diarrhea, food poisoning, and even eye infections.

Drain flies – Unlike their common cousins, drain flies often originate inside the home. As their name suggests, drain flies typically emerge from drains in basements, bathrooms, and kitchens. Irregular masses of 10 to 200 eggs are laid at a time. They hatch within 48 hours and feed on the sediment and decaying vegetation that collect in the drains. After maturation, the adult drain fly lives between one to three weeks.

While they are weak fliers and can usually be squashed if you see one hovering around, the real problem is that they breed in such large numbers that the population can get out of control very quickly. They can be especially difficult for people with bronchial issues; inhaling the insects can trigger attacks in asthmatics.

Yellowjackets & bumblebees – Found all over the U.S., yellowjackets and bumblebees are the most common and the most aggressive of the winged insects that sting.

“Home Sweet Home”

While professional interventions can eliminate the pests, one of the most helpful things homeowners can do to prevent an invasion is to change the household environment. Some basic types of upkeep will make your place less hospitable to freeloaders.

  • Dry out damp areas
    • Correct roof or plumbing leaks
    • Have plumbed appliances checked for proper seals
    • Always make sure faucets are turned off completely
  • Eliminate entry points
    • Seal cracks and openings in the foundation
    • Make sure window and door screens are well-fitted
    • Move excess soil and mulch away from the home’s siding
    • Remove any vegetation touching the roof or siding
    • Stack cordwood away from the house and keep it elevated
  • Clean up storage areas
    • Remove unused books, papers, etc.
    • Launder or dry-clean clothes before storing them
    • Keep kitchen dry goods (such as sugar, flour, oils, and rice) in containers with tight seals

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